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Leslie Phillips

Peter O'Toole: 'I am human. All too bloody human.'

Peter O'Toole: 'I am human. All too bloody human.'

London — It's hard not to stare at Peter O'Toole's face, hunting for vestiges of one of the most beautiful male visages to grace the silver screen. Yet, the clear blue eyes that once peered out from under a white kaffiyeh have gone rheumy. The cheeks sag. The skin no longer gleams. There are flashes of who he used to be: A certain tilt of the face and the amazing bone structure suddenly emerges from the haze of age. There are moments when the smile animates -- and he is again naughty, charming, ruminative and elusive.

On a recent fall afternoon, the actor, now 74, was sitting on a settee in an old-fashioned English hotel, meticulously and repeatedly applying lip balm to his faded...